A common market? Creating the optimum network for effective pan-European PR

Whether you are a well established name preparing to roll out operations in new territories, a blue chip looking to improve your international communications or a promising start-up entering new markets, you will find having an effective framework for an international PR programme that suits your business challenging.

The importance of campaign co-ordination which cannot be underestimated. A PR campaign that achieves its objectives and makes the best use of the resources available is the primary aim of any regional or global PR or marketing manager. However, it is debatable whether such a goal can be realised without having an explicit strategy in place to co-ordinate PR across several countries.

The benefits of international campaign co-ordination are great and include maximising the campaign budget by removing duplication and reducing overheads across a region; ensuring consistency in the messaging, regardless of the location, and improved results through sharing knowledge and tailoring campaigns by the local PR functions.

The challenge of multi-country or regional PR has been faced by every international technology company. The strategy adopted by each business will be different, according to a company’s organisational structure, the company culture and the ownership of PR and associated budgets. However, most can be seen to fall into one of three broad models or frameworks:

* Local -each country implements an independent PR programme
* Central -headquarters control the entire international PR programme
* Hybrid co-ordination - a mixture of the two approaches

All approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and should be assessed thoroughly by a corporation before making a decision onto which models suits its business objectives best.

When selecting the best co-ordination approach for your organisation, there are a number of issues that you need to consider. These include:

* Identifying who will conduct the media relations element of the PR campaign. Invariably media relations should be handled at the country level, as local PR teams have the best understanding of individual journalists and the press as a whole.

* As you may already know from personal experience, local culture, personalities and geography can prove very difficult to integrate into local campaigns by a centralised team.

* Factors such as different working practices and national holidays can also complicate PR co-ordination, especially if there is a lack of communication and co-ordination between countries.

* Effective communication is essential for a well co-ordinated campaign but language itself or interpretation around a translated content can often prove a barrier.

* Public relations is very dependent on team work and if you have a large number of PR practitioners operating across several countries, establishing that vital team spirit can be difficult.

When you have considered the main challenges and assessed the potential approaches to PR co-ordination, the next step is to design a framework that suits your own business. When putting in place a framework, it can be very easy to simply follow the structure or organisation of your own business, and though this may often be the easiest solution, it may not necessarily be the best solution for your PR programme.

Finally, once you have worked with all the countries to design and implement a framework for effective PR co-ordination you need to know whether it is working or not? It is important to let the new system bed down and allow relationships and communication channels to become well established. Once this has happened, a detailed assessment, depending on the size and complexity of the programme, should probably be made after six to eight months and has to include feedback from every country. As with the evaluation of any PR programme, you will need to assess if the objectives in the PR plan are being met and if you are achieving the level of coverage expected.

Brendon Craigie works for Hotwire, an international firm of public relations consultants offering a range of PR services.

They have published a full white paper on creating the optimum network for effective pan-European PR